Thursday, May 22, 2014

St. Nicholas Church, Zakynthos

The Church of St. Nicholas ton Ksenon (of the Foreigners) in Zakynthos is the Metropolitan Church of the Ionian island. It is located in the centre of the city. It is not known when a Church was first built on the same spot. Also, there are numerous conflicting ideas on how the Church received its interesting name, i.e. of the Foreigners. However, since the Venetian rule of the island, there has been a Church here, an area where aristocratic families lived. The name of the Foreigners was most probably assigned to this Church before the Venetian came to the island (1485). It is a belief that it received this name due to the fact that in the Church courtyard they buried foreign travellers and sailors and the orphans who died in Zante. This Church is also known as the Church next to the Waters, due to its position, close to the port of the city. 

In 1492 nobleman Dimitrios Amiralis restored the Church, which had been ruined. Since the late 15th century it was functioning as a parish Church. In 1504 the Church is believed to belong to the priest Leontios Katilianos, who in 1530 gave it to his son Fr. Andrew, whilst in 1567 it was passed on to Fr. Germanos Chrysolouras.
Last recorded owner of the Church is John Makris, after which the Church was converted under a Venetian ducal decree (26th May 1621), in fief of each archpriest of Zakynthos, and was affiliated with the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in the fort, receiving the name Monastery of the Metropolis of Saints Nicholas and John.  This decision was taken by the authorities at the request of the Orthodox community of the island to establish an official seat for the Archpriest of the island. Zante during this period was under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Kefallonia and Zakynthos, whose seat was located in Kefallonia. Therefore, the Church of St. Nicholas of the Foreigners was the centre of Orthodox worship on the Ionian island between 1495 and the 17th century. In 1647, the Church building was renovated at the expense of Dr Dimitri Komoutos, who allegedly also financed the construction of the wooden golden iconostasis, according to an inscription. 

In 1824, Zakynthos became an independent diocese. First Bishop was Gabriel Garzonis, whilst also the Church of St. Nicholas was upgraded to a cathedral. The Church went through a number of renovations, enriching it with marble new icons and gold.
Unfortunately, in 1953 the Church was destroyed by the massive earthquake and fire, which destroyed the whole city of Zakynthos. In August of 1967 the Church was consecrated, being built by the people of Zakynthos and by the generosity of businessman Eleftherios Mouzakis, who later funded the bell tower. 

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